Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Archive for the tag “children’s books”

Interview with poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins

I don’t know how they do it. I have so many writer friends who somehow find the time to not only write stories and poetry, but update their blog every other day, maintain a family, run errands, and do all the other stuff that life requires…and yet for me, it’s always a struggle. I really don’t know how they keep it all together! Myself, I’m taking care of the kids, trying to keep on top of my voiceover business, keeping the house and yard from looking too shabby, trying to be a good hubby, AND find time to get all my writing in. And invariably, every day ends with me wondering where the hours all went.

That said, I’m reposting this interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins today. I’ve been out straight lately with commercial production work and writing children’s poems to submit to a few select publications, and since this interview was first shared in the fall of 2012 (Nov. 13, to be exact), I thought it remained on the shelf long enough and deserved a second posting! I hope you like it…

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Lee Bennett Hopkins’ name is synonymous with children’s literature. He has written and edited numerous award-winning books; he’s worked with a veritable who’s-who of authors, from Dr. Seuss to Madeleine L’Engle; and he has even been an elementary school educator.  In addition to the numerous awards he’s received over the years, he was recognized by Guinness World Records in 2011 as the world’s most prolific anthologist of poetry for children:  at the time, he had edited 113 different titles. and he’s not slowing down.

I recently wrapped up an interview with Lee for Poetry Advocates for Children and Young Adults (PACYA), which we just finished editing and formatting yesterday….you can find the interview HERE.

PACYA is featuring all the recipients of the prestigious National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children; in addition to Lee, you can read biographies and interviews with poets like Karla Kuskin, X.J. Kennedy, Myra Cohn Livingston, Nikki Grimes, and more.  (I had the honour of interviewing U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis a few weeks ago, and that interview will be posted in a couple weeks.)  See the complete list of all the featured poets along with links to their pages HERE.

My thanks to PACYA for helping to promote children’s poetry, and for giving me the opportunity to help them in their efforts!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “In the Glen”

Now that I’m finally able to see my computer screen again, I’ve been spending my week furiously trying to get caught up on my voiceover business. I have auditions I need to record, scripts I need to write, and commercials I need to produce – and deadlines that are staring me down. So today, I’m reposting something I originally shared exactly one year ago, on July 19, 2013.

It’s a poem that will always be dear to my heart, not only because it was published but because it is both an adult AND a children’s poem – and since I’ve gained many new followers in the past year, I wanted to give them an opportunity to read it, if they wanted to.  For all of today’s Poetry Friday links and info, Tabatha Yeats is hosting the roundup at The Opposite of Indifference!

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I don’t think I’ve ever posted a previously-published poem here, since I started this little blog nearly a year ago. Today, I am!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllThis was written at least 3 years ago, possibly longer – I wish I could find my original copy that had the completion date on it. But like most poems, it went through several revisions before I was finally happy with it, so it is the most recent revision I’m sharing now.

As I mentioned, this was previously published in the Tall Grass Writer’s Guild’s anthology, Seasons of Change (Outrider p|Press, 2010).  Although it’s a poem more geared to adults, younger folks may very well understand what I’m describing. (And I’m eager to see if you know what the poem is about, too!)

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“In the Glen”

Old stump
rotting, torn by time, shredded with age
browned and blackened through fires and storms,
impassioned hooves and finely-honed axes.

Long ago, abandoned even by ants and mites and worms
who took what they could, consumed their fill
and, satiated and exhausted,
left
to scavenge elsewhere.
Rings once worn proudly
perfect, circumscribe –
nearly inscrutable
like the history they keep.

In younger years
its boughs bore fruit;
lush canopy,
shade;
firewood,
home,
a vessel.

Now
years after boy,
as old stump dies
softly
bark and pith and fiber
fall away
to compost
and one lone leaf –
green, young,
hopeful –
sprouts forth
from the remains…

old stump
once again
gives.

- © 2010, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Book review: “S is for Sea Glass”

I write poetry in a variety of styles and forms – some rhyming, some free verse. Some structured, some not quite so.

You can therefore imagine how refreshing it was for me to see a children’s poetry collection that offered this same sort of variety – not the cut-and-paste sing-song of simple rhyming verse, nor the page-after-page of non-rhyming, uneven line-length free verse (which can sometimes get heavy for children’s poetry). In the case of Richard Michelson’s S is for Sea Glass: A Beach Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2014), we’re talking about a smart, well-structured book that carries one theme – poems about the beach – but presents that theme in 26 different ways.

Sea Glass cover

Because a trip to the beach or ocean carries with it so many different moods, sights, and feelings for a child, this book makes good use of poetic forms to highlight those differences. One minute the reader is contemplating the ebb and flow of tides, and the next he or she is chuckling over the author’s query of what, precisely, a mosquito is good for.
…..

H is for Horizon

Where does the sea stop and the sky begin?
Where does the sun rise when the dawn slips in?
Where does the ship sail when its sails disappear?
Is it under the ocean? Is it up in the air?

If I travel the world or stay here on this beach,
The horizon will always be just beyond reach.
But its real as my dreams and it’s always nearby -
That magical line where the sea meets the sky.

- Richard Michelson, reprinted with permission, all rights reserved

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Doris Ettlinger’s illustrations perfectly match the poems, as they are neither trite nor bold nor ornate…but are simultaneously happy and calm, fun and reflective, cool and warm. The fact that it’s an alphabet book is almost superfluous.

Which, I suppose, is a good thing, as I feel many of the poems – most, in fact, read above the level of a child who would need to learn the alphabet. As a collection of poetry, as a book about the beach, as a book that reflects the wonders, mysteries, and joy of being ocean side…S is for Sea Glass is beautiful. The fact that it’s an alphabet book seems unnecessary.

Here’s another one of my favourites:
…..

R is for Rain

Nobody’s  at the beach today. ‘Most everyone’s complaining.
…..The sky is dark. The clouds are thick. And I, the Rain, am raining.

…..…...Folks let waves splash them head to toe. Do you hear any whining?
……….……….No!
…..…..…..They think it’s fun to get wet when their friend, the sun, is shining.

…..…..…..…..I cool the breeze. And fill the seas. Who’s not a rainbow lover?
…..…..…..…..…..So why, when I come out to play, do they all run for cover?

- Richard Michelson, reprinted with permission, all rights reserved


Like I said, smart, beautiful, relatable  poetry. And it’s poetry that makes children think as much as smile. Hopefully, the next time they go to the beach, some of the images will be fresh in their heads. I know many of the images are fresh in my head – but then again, I’ve been spending all week here by the ocean.

And I think it’s time I did some more refreshing. I hear the surf calling my name…

York beach

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

Poetry Friday: “First Last Dance”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllThis is something I wrote almost exactly two years ago for a proposed children’s poetry anthology that was to spotlight the changes (emotional and physical) that middle-graders go through on their way towards puberty and beyond. Unfortunately, the editors were not able to pull the book together, so this poem never got to see the light of day. I’m not sure why I never shared it here, but I liked it and thought I’d give it an opportunity to have an audience.

This is semi-autobiographical, and my hope was that I was not alone in my experiences and that other adults would be able to relate to it, as well – and of course, that it would be something of a learning experience or teaching opportunity for parents and kids alike. I hope it brings back a memory or two.

And if you’d like to read more, feel free to search the blog under “Poetry” and also be sure to visit Violet Nesdoly’s blog for all of today’s Poetry Friday links and info!

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First Last Dance

I’m not sure why I came tonight.
I’m not sure why I’m here.
A new kid at a new school
at the first dance of the year.
I have no friends to speak of yet
or fancy clothes to wear;
I’m kind, polite,
don’t like to fight,
but no one seems to care.

The last song starts to play; a swarm
of students fills the floor.
I breathe a >sigh< and turn to leave –
when heading toward the door,
I’m halted by a stunning beauty
rising from her chair.
I don’t know why
but she says ‘hi’…
and soon we’re dancing there.

She lets me hold her in my arms
(I hope I do this right)
my heart is racing madly; music
slowly fills the night.
Her soft hair brushes past my cheek,
her head is on my chest;
the singer sings,
I’m feeling things
I never would have guessed.

Before too long, the lights are up,
we feel the moment pass,
she smiles and says she’ll see me
Monday morning, back in class.
I’m glad I came here after all.
I’m glad I took a chance –
‘cause now I’m looking forward to…

the next last dance.

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© 2012, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

RhyPiBoMo and the benefits of collaboration

You might think I’m here – but you’d be wrong!

RhyPiBoMo badgeI’m actually guest-blogging today at Angie Karcher’s blog, as part of a month-long celebration of National Poetry Month! Angie has created RhyPiBoMO (short for Rhyming Picture Book Month) as a way to get people motivated to write for children.

Earlier this year, I completed a collaboration project with a fellow picture book author, and the manuscript we’ve written would have never come to fruition without the two of us hammering things out, writing and editing, and sharing back-and-forth via Google Drive.

When two people with complimentary talents take an interest in something…awesome things can happen! Find out more HERE at Angie’s place, and be sure to check back here periodically throughout the month of April as the National Poetry Month celebration continues!

You can see the complete schedule for all of Angie’s guest bloggers on this calendar:

RhyPiBoMo calendar - updated

Click to enlarge, to see all of Angie’s guest bloggers this month!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

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Poetry Friday: “Mistaken Identity” and other Poetry Month happenings

NPM-2005-WhiteNational Poetry Month continues, and there’s so much going on in the Kidlitosphere it’s hard to keep track of it all. Blog posts come and blog posts go, and I try to read as many as I can…but there’s just no way I can get to all of them. One post I’m glad I didn’t miss helped me write today’s poem.

Earlier this week at The Miss Rumphius Effect, former National Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis shared a new poetic form he calls the “homophoem,” a poem designed with homophones in mind. (If you don’t know what a homophone is. it’s two or more words that share the same sound, like ate and eight or carrot and carat) The concept is that the last word in the poem is a homophone which acts as the ‘twist’ of the poem.

Kate Coombs and Charles Waters both wrote some incredible poems for the challenge, which they shared on the blog, and this is my contribution:

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMistaken Identity
(A conversation in two voices)

No bull,
I’m not a cow,
it’s true –
I don’t eat hay,
I have no moo.

But what about
your horns and hooves,
and all the grass
you like to chew?

My parents
have two horns –
they do!
They both
have hooves
and eat grass, too!

Are you an ox?
A yak? A ewe?
Please tell me!
Give me just a clue!

Who am I?
Why, I am zebu!

Zebu?
Zebu?!?

 I never gnu.
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- © 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine

But wait, there’s more! Michelle Heindenrich Barnes is celebrating her blog’s FIRST birthday by hosting Poetry Friday today at Today’s Little Ditty, so head on over to get all the links and info – and maybe some cake and ice cream before it’s gone!

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2014kidlit_progpoem Have you been following Irene Latham’s 2014 Progressive Poem? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, a different poet adds a line to the poem each day, and by the end of April we’ll have a complete, crowd-sourced poem!

This past Tuesday, I added my line, and today the poem heads to Linda Kulp at Write Time. You can follow along by checking in with each of the contributors, listed below!

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show–Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
30 Tara at A Teaching Life

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#MMPoetry – we have a winner!

MMPoetry2014_logo_full

If you haven’t checked out all the children’s poems that have been produced in just the past couple weeks, you can still log on and see all the incredible poetry that has been created this month.

Just last night, the polls closed on the final matchup between J.J. Close and Samuel “The Lunchbox Doodler” Kent – and congratulations to Samuel for winning the tournament! Click the graphic and you can read both poems!

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RhyPiBoMo banner

I’m very happy to be part of Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo event this month (Rhyming Picture Book Month). All month, she’s encouraging writers to create rhyming picture books (and she’s assembled a team so large and decorated, I have no idea what I’m doing amongst them!) I’ll be guest blogging on April 26, discussing the benefits of collaboration – so please be sure to join me then!

To see all the posts and learn more, click the calendar below for the daily schedule:
RhyPiBoMo calendar - updated

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The day after I guest-blog at Angie’s, I’ll be interviewing writer and poet Gerald So, the editor of the 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly. (I know – quite a segue going from kidlit to poems about crime!)

30Days52-2014-128ltI interviewed Gerald last year as part of my National Poetry Month celebration, and I thought it might be nice to check in with him a year later to see how things have been progressing. You may not think crime and poetry have much to do with each other…but read a few of the poems that Gerald has published on his site as well as in one of his eBooks, and you just might change your mind.

I’m also honored that Gerald has chosen a poem of mine to publish in May, so I’ll be sure to share that link once it is posted!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

National Poetry Month, a “Water Can Be” review, #MMPoetry…and I’m not even here!

Yes, that’s right…I’m not really here. I’m laid up, following my ACL surgery from last Friday. But I hope you’re enjoying it!

By the way, do you know what’s really weird? I’m writing this on Thursday, the day before my surgery, but I’m acting as if it’s Tuesday and I’ve already had the surgery. My brain is already confused and I’m not even on painkillers! Although, by the time you read this, I might be. Good grief, my head hurts…)

2014kidlit_progpoem

The inimitable Charles Waters kicks off this year’s Progressive Poem! Click the image to see how he’s starting things off!

Anyway, there is a lot going on this month:  I’ll be taking part in Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month) project with a guest blog post on April 22; I’ll be again teaming up with Gerald So at the The 5-2 : Crime Poetry Weekly for a follow-up interview here, before he shares one of my poems at his place in May; and I’m also proud to again take part in Irene Latham’s Progressive Poem, where a different writer adds a line to a poem each day of the month, and by the end of April we’ll have a complete poem!

2014 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem Contributors (and the dates they’ll be taking part):

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show–Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
30 Tara at A Teaching Life

 

“Water Can Be”

Water Can Be coverTo kick off national Poetry Month, I’m sharing my thoughts on Laura Purdie Salas’ new book, Water Can Be (Millbrook, 2014) which is available TODAY!

Only a fellow writer can truly appreciate the difficulty of simple writing. In terms of writing, especially writing for children, the word ‘simple’ does not mean plain, boring, easy, or any of the other synonyms most people think of. Rather, simple writing is, in a word, uncomplicated. And by being uncomplicated, it can be beautiful, touching, and sincere.

It’s also very hard to do consistently well.

Fortunately, Laura Purdie Salas is up to the task, as she brings us a ‘follow-up’ to her book, A Leaf Can Be (Millbrook, 2012). Not that it’s a sequel of any kind…but Water Can Be just feels like the natural second book in a series of quiet, thought-provoking, and fun-to-read books about nature.

Kids as well as adults will be amused reading lines like, “Water can be a…tadpole catcher / picture catcher / otter feeder / downhill speeder…” and when these are combined with Violeta Dabija’s simple (there’s that word again) yet whimsical illustrations, all these metaphors and concepts come to life in a unique way.

Not every rhyming picture book is poetry. This one is.

Get a taste of what water can be by checking out the trailer:

If you love to read with your kids, if you love poetry, if you love wordplay…you’ll love this book. You can learn more about Laura at her website, and you can learn more about Violeta at hers!

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#MMPoetry continues!

MMPoetry2014_logo_full

If you haven’t checked out all the children’s poems that have been produced in just the past couple weeks, make sure you log on and vote for your favourites - by the time the dust settles, only one authlete will be left standing!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine blogger logoA couple of weeks ago, Heidi Mordhorst nominated this blog for a Sunshine Blogger Award. I immediately thanked her…then went to her blog to find out what that meant! According to Heidi, the folks she nominated “are people whose blogs, whose work, and whose simple existence bring sunshine to my juicy little universe.” (In case you’re wondering, My Juicy Little Universe is the name of her blog)

Following the Rules

Far be it for me to break tradition here. This is what she said I needed to do:

• Acknowledge the nominating bloggers
• Share 11 random facts about yourself
• Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger creates for you
• List 11 bloggers
• Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the  bloggers know they’ve been nominated.  (You cannot nominate the blogger  who nominated you.)

chili!

Good stuff!

Well, I’ve thanked Heidi for nominating me, so I can check the first one off the list. Now then…eleven random facts? Listing eleven facts are easy enough, but these need to be random. Let’s see how random I can get:

1) If I wasn’t a voiceover talent and writer, I’d either be teaching English or cooking professionally.
2) I wrote my first Elizabethan sonnet in 9th grade; it wasn’t very good, but it scanned!
3) I make a vegan chili that’s so flippin’ good, even carnivores have been fooled.
4) My favourite author is Isaac Asimov.
5) I fell in love with voice acting at a very young age, after my father let me listen to some old-time radio shows. (I talk more about this HERE)
6) I share the same birthday (June 24) as rockers Jeff Beck and Mick Fleetwood. Not really anything significant about that – but it IS a random fact.
7) Even though I used to work in radio and hosted several morning shows, I hate noise in the morning! Please keep it quiet for a few hours while I wake up…
8) Def Leppard’s drummer, Rick Allen, once gave me his cellphone number. (I should call and see if it still works)
9) I gave my 5-year-old daughter, Katie, a metal plate that had been removed from my left arm, following surgery. Why? She wanted it!
10) I had never eaten avocado or tofu until I met my wife, Jen, 7 years ago.
11) 
My favourite band is Crowded House, yet the only time I’ve ever seen them live was two years ago in Boston (thanks to my wife!). In fact, anything that Neil Finn or his brother, Tim, have done – from Split Enz to their various collaborations – is ok by me.

Eleven questions, eleven answers

I now need to answer the 11 questions Heidi asked on her blog post, when she nominated this blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Keep in mind, I have not read any of the questions until this very moment- so the answers I’m giving here are my immediate responses. Something tells me this is going to be fun:

1) What’s the first poem you remember knowing?  (You get to define “knowing”.)
The first poem I recall reading and trying to memorize was from a book whose title I don’t recall, unfortunately! (I’ve tried tracking down the book, to no avail) The poem was about how much fun it would be if we could eat clouds, it was from a small, paperback collection of poetry, and most of the pen & ink illustrations were accented in blue and pink. If you have ANY idea what book this is, please let me know!

2) What’s the first poem you remember writing? (You get to define “writing”.)
When I was 6 or 7 I think, I “wrote” some horribly rhyming lines about a goat swallowing a boat down his throat – and asked my uncle, a musician, if he could write the music for it. (Sorry, Uncle Ron, I still feel bad for that) Now, I considered it a song rather than a poem – but looking back on it, it wasn’t much of either, so I guess it’ll have to do.

3) Can you summarize your typical composition process in three easy steps? Okay, then, do it!
(Technically, this is 4 steps!)
Step 1: Come up with an idea.
Step 2: Write it down.
Step 3: Send it out to a bunch of editors and agents who don’t like it.
Step 4: Repeat .

4) What classic or famous poem have you used as a model, on purpose?  Share if you care to.
Wow, what a great question I don’t think I can answer! I’ve used numerous poems to write parodies over the years (like this one), but as far as serious poems, I don’t think I have ever done this. I’ve borrowed styles and forms and themes and such – but I’m not sure I’ve ever used a particular poem as a model.

5) With whom would you like to write a collection of poems?  (Living candidates only, please.)
Charles Ghigna. While I love Douglas Florian’s wit, David L. Harrison’s insight, and Steven Withrow’s lyricism, Charles has a knack for taking little observances and making them big and beautiful while maintaining a simple language and style. A close runner-up would be David Elliott, who has a great sense of humour and an ability to distill his observations into their most important facets. (That’s not too high-brow a comment, is it?)

6) What’s the weirdest place or moment you’ve ever found yourself composing?
You know, I don’t think I ever pay attention to that sort of thing. I write about varied subjects, and my focus, as far as I can tell, is usually on that particular subject. Whatever else is going on around me is secondary – which I suppose is probably not always a good thing!

7) What’s the weirdest place or moment you’ve ever been in, period?
A few years ago, a female friend and I went to a birthday party for a friend of hers…at a gay bar. Now, it wasn’t the fact that I was one of only two straight guys in the building – neither of us had any problem with that. But watching a scantily-clad “shot-boy” dancing on a table and having my butt grabbed on more than one occasion was definitely an experience I’ll never forget!

8) Say you have an unexpected couple of hours to yourself at home.  What do you do?  Include details of food, drink, tools, rules, etc.
First, I’ll try to get a load of dishes and laundry going – those things ain’t gonna wash themselves. Then I’ll pour some Moxie, maybe grad some Doritos, and head upstairs to my studio to do some writing. Taking care of two young kids, I don’t have the time I used to – so I fit writing in whenever I can.

9)  Say you suddenly find yourself in my kindergarten classroom with an opportunity to relive the 5-year-old you.  What do you enjoy most?
Probably playing on the playground, kicking balls, and riding the see-saw. If it was raining, I’d be happy colouring and drawing inside. The 5-year-old me never went to kindergarten, so formal academics weren’t a part of my life!

10) Say Dr. Who shows up in his Tardis and invites you on a three-hour tour.  Where do you go?  Whom do you visit?  Do you bring anything back?
Where I go: I’d like to zip around the world and visit some of the places I doubt I’ll ever see: Scotland, Paris, New Zealand, the Bahamas, Machu Pichu.
Whom I visit: I’d like to get Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and Vishnu together and see if we can come to an understanding.
What I bring back: Leela. I’ve had a thing for her ever since middle school, and I’m now old enough to be able to do something about it.

11) When’s your birthday?
Oh, that’s easy! Like I said above, it’s June 24.

Who I’m nominating

The following list of fellow bloggers is by no means a complete list of all the folks I am proud to call friends, peers, and mentors; it is, however, a good sampling of the types of folks with whom I like to hang around. They are, in no particular order:

Renee LaTulippe at No Water River
Steven Withrow at Poetry At Play and Crackles of Speech
Joy Acey at Poetry for Kids Joy
Josh Funk at Papa J. Funk
Laura Shovan at Author Amok
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Paul Czajak at Ramblings of a Writer
Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids
David L. Harrison at his blog
Jama Kim Rattigan at Jama’s Alphabet Soup
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at the Poem Farm

And finally, questions for my nominees:

I think it took me longer to come up with these questions than it did answering Heidi’s. Here are the questions I am asking of the 11 bloggers whom I’ve nominated.

1) How would you describe/define your particular writing niche? In other words, what makes you so special?
2) If you had to suddenly change careers, what would you do?
3) I had to answer this, so now I’d like to hear from you: Can you describe your writing process in 3 simple steps?
4) If you were given $1000 with the instructions that it all had to be given away, how would you do it?
5) What story, book, or poem do you recall being the first thing you ever read that really made an impression?
6) You’re going to appear on a reality show – real or imagined. What’s it called?
7) Who would you love to collaborate with, and why?
8) What is one of your favourite things that you’ve written?
9) What type of writing project scares you to death, and when do you plan to start working on it?
10) You’ve been sentenced to death; what will be your final meal?
11) And with whom would you share it?

And with that, I shall take my leave and get back to work. I hope some of my blogger friends will take this challenge because I’d love to read some of their answers! And if you haven’t visited their blogs before, check them out and see what you think…you just might learn something new!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Beulah Buford”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI can’t believe this is my first Poetry Friday post of 2014! Since I’ve been on hiatus, it feels weird getting back into the swing o’ things.

By the way, if you haven’t yet checked out my interview with children’s poet David L. Harrison from this past Tuesday, please make sure you do – it’s very enlightening, plus I’d hate to have put in all that hard work for you to just skip past it. Just the mere thought of you ignoring it is almost too much to bear. Please don’t make me sad. Do the right thing and click that link.

CYBILS logoAlso: the CYBILS Award winners have been announced! I’m very proud and honored to have been a 2nd-round judge for the Poetry Book category. These awards are chosen by children’s literature bloggers, so the folks voting have read a few children’s books in their time. I can tell you, the judging was NOT easy, either. All of us had to come together from opposite ends of opinion – some of us loved books that others didn’t, and vice versa – so I think we have a solid winner.

As for today, I was going to write a new poem, since it’s Valentine’s Day, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had the time to be able to nail down my idea – so I decided to share this with you, instead: another poem I’m including in my winter-themed collection! Hope you like it. And for all of today’s Poetry Friday links, visit my friend Linda Baie at Teacher Dance!

Beulah Buford

Beulah Buford picks on me;
calls me names, kicks me in the knee,
makes fun of the clothes I wear,
sticks bubblegum in my books and hair.
I just got her Valentine card, and SURPRISE –
it says she wants to apologize!
For now, I think I’ll stay out of her way.

I hit her with a snowball at recess today.

© 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Interview with children’s poet David L. Harrison

Last October, I had the opportunity to spend a week with David Harrison and 14 other children’s writers at the Highlights Foundation’s children’s poetry workshop, “Poetry: For the Delight of It.” Although it’s taken several months to post, it’s my pleasure to finally be able to bring you this online conversation David and I had, following the workshop!

David headshotDavid Harrison’s first book for children, The Boy With a Drum, was released in 1969 and eventually sold over two million copies. In 1972, David won national recognition when he received the Christopher Award for The Book of Giant Stories.

Since then, David has published over 90 books that have sold more than 15 million copies and earned numerous honors!

He has been anthologized in more than 100 books and appeared in dozens of magazines and professional journals, and his work has been translated into twelve languages and presented on television, radio, cassette, and CD-ROM.

David’s SKY HIGH ON READING program was the International Reading Association’s nationwide winner in 2001. The Missouri Librarian Association presented him with its 2007 Literacy Award for the body of his work.

In the last 25 years, David has been a speaker, featured author, or presenter at nearly 300 state, regional, and national conferences in 30 states, and maintains a blog to let readers know what he’s up to and encourage them to write their own poetry.  David holds science degrees from Drury and Emory universities and honorary doctorate of letters degrees from Missouri State University and Drury University. He has an elementary school named for him and is poet laureate of Drury. He lives in Springfield, Missouri with his wife Sandy, a retired guidance counselor.

Learning through Poetry

Perfect home

First of all, I’d like to thank you, David, for finding the time to do this interview; you’re a busy man! Tell me about some of the highlights (no pun intended!) of what you’ve been up to this past year.

Pun accepted, Matt. It’s kind of you to interview me for your blog. Thanks for asking. In the spring, Shell Publication introduced a set of five books that I co-wrote with Mary Jo Fresch, a professor at OhioState. Collectively the books are called Learning through Poetry. I wrote 96 poems for the series and Mary Jo created classroom activities based on them.

A picture book called A Perfect Home for a Family came out with Holiday House and a kit called Let’s Write this Week with David Harrison was introduced by Phoenix Learning Resources. The kit contains twenty 5-minute DVD lessons, a teacher’s guide co-written with Drury University’s Laurie Edmondson, twenty copies of a student writing journal, and three of my books that were used as examples in the text. PiratesI was in Texas, Boston, and other places to present at conferences and enjoyed conducting another poetry workshop at the Highlights location in Pennsylvania.

A definite highlight was when my book of poems, Pirates, was selected by MissouriCenter for the Book to represent Missouri at The National Book Fair in Washington, D.C. this past fall. I didn’t make the trip but am told that about 200,000 others did.

Speaking of the Highlights workshop, it was a pleasure to finally meet you in person, after having spent so much time chatting on your blog and via Facebook.  What do you feel your role is, as a writer, mentor, blogger?

Mostly I’m a writer. On days without other obligations I work at being a writer from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. This involves numerous activities besides working on a manuscript. My blog takes some time. So does keeping up with correspondence, preparing for workshops, keynotes, and presentations. I also work with various literacy groups and my wife and I travel quite a bit. My rule of thumb is that I will respond to general queries from writers who ask for how-to information but stop short of reading their work. I do critiques as part of a workshop environment, and this year I agreed to be the Missouri mentor for SCBWI.

With so many people trying to break into the world of children’s publishing, and with so many posting their work online via Facebook, personal blogs, or other outlets (Yours Truly included!), do you think it’s difficult for the average reader to differentiate between ‘good’ material and just ‘average’ material? It seems like the less that poetry is being published traditionally, the more it’s popping non-traditionally, and it’s getting hard to keep track of it all!

It’s a good news bad news situation. Thanks to the Internet, many more books and poems are now available to a reading public. Some of the material is wonderful, some is horrid, and the vast majority – as usual – falls somewhere on the slope between the peak and valley. The freedom to publish one’s own work can bring enormous satisfaction. Finding readers is difficult without the traditional support of print publishers, but that’s the tradeoff.

Long term? More poets publishing more poetry for more readers seems like a good thing to me. My assumption is that the good stuff will eventually be recognized for its quality and most of the rest will remain fairly anonymous except for the happy poet and his/her immediate circle of family and friends. Not a bad thing!

Cows (David L)Dog (David L)Grubb (David L)Glaciers (David L)

What advice can you offer aspiring authors and poets? And what do you think aspiring writers need to do, that perhaps they may not be doing?

Beware of advice from duffers and codgers. Back in my day, we had to write our stories in the dirt with our fingers. We had to carry our manuscripts all the way to New York because we couldn’t afford stamps. Editors breathed fire and their breath smelled of coal. I’ve never had much useful advice to offer, Matt. Getting good at anything requires approximately the same approach be it volleyball or be it making it to Carnegie Hall: practice.

If Malcolm Gladwell is to be believed, it takes 10,000 hours of it. I think what makes the craft of writing more difficult than many realize is that it’s a highly competitive profession in which practitioners are often self-taught. It’s like completing a four-year college major on your own. So set up realistic goals. Celebrate small successes of any kind. And write! Write every chance you have. Try different genres. Experiment. But write. Practice, practice, practice.

And of course, read, read, read – it’s one of the best ways to learn! Which leads me to my next question. We all have favourite authors who somehow exert their influence on us, even if we don’t want them to; who are your favourite poets or authors, and how has their writing affected yours?

I like E. B. White’s beautifully written essays, his book on the elements of style and, of course, his books for children. He’s the master of the language. I love Frost’s musings and Elliot’s cats and Collins’s approachable eloquence. I began writing short stories back in the day so I read a lot of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Updike, Bruce Friedman, Kurt Vonnegut, and Terry Southern. I have loved the novels and stories of Joan Didion, Barbara Kingsolver, and Annie Proulx. Among the writers of children’s literature who inspire me, the list would be long and I would fear leaving out someone by oversight.

So who or what inspires you?  And who do you trust for feedback on your writing?

By training and by nature I love nature. I’m happy watching geese take off from the lake behind our house, as I did during this interview. Wild creatures inspire me. I love children but am rarely moved to write something that has been inspired by them. I find my ideas in unexpected places and believe it’s because some part of a writer’s brain is always receptive to the possibility of turning nothing into something. I work alone and don’t want anyone to see my manuscript until it’s ready. Then I take it to my wife Sandy. She has always been my first reader. She’s honest and I need her to be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By the way, you are the only person I know to have a school named after them! How did that come to be? 

The Superintendent of our school district called one day to tell me that 40+ names had been submitted by the public for an under-construction elementary school and I was among the final three candidates. He called back sometime later to congratulate me and invite me to a school board meeting to make it official. When the school opened, I was asked to give the opening talk to the student body (K-4), its teachers and staff, and various officials of the district. My family came as well as Kent and Jody Brown (of Highlights Foundation) who flew in from Pennsylvania to honor me with their presence. My speech was put into a time capsule. In the front hall on either side of the library entrance a collection of my work was placed on display for three years in two sixteen-foot long glassed cases.

David Harrison Elementary School cost $10 million to build in 2009 and rests on seventy-two acres. Click HERE to visit their website!

You are also the only one I know who has provided inspiration for a playwright; your poetry inspired Sandy Asher’s school plays, Somebody Catch My Homework and Jesse and Grace: A Best Friend’s Story.  How did these works compare with your originals – and is it even fair to compare them?

Somebody Catch My HomeworkSandy and I have been close friends and writing partners for a long time. For the play, Somebody Catch My Homework, she went through my published poetry and folders of poems-in-waiting and fished out a group of fourth grade characters to form the basis of a play. I love it, of course, and sit up straighter each time an actor in the play steps forward, as though to sing but, instead, recites one of my poems. The play has been a success both here and elsewhere.

Jesse and Grace was also Sandy’s brainstorm. In this case she and I became fourth graders, lifetime friends, who take turns presenting our thoughts in a series of poems. Jesse and Grace have a serious spat and we had to work through it all by expressing our feelings as if we had no idea what the other might be thinking. When it came time to turn the book manuscript into a play, I turned down Sandy’s kind offer to co-write it with her. She’s a wonderful playwright and I’m not. That was her department.

Jesse and Grace went on to receive one of the most prestigious awards in the world of children’s plays, the Distinguished Play of the Year presented by Alliance of American Theatre and Education.

I think it’s important for all of us to be willing to try new things, and that’s what you did two years ago when you published Goose Lake: A Year in the Life of a Lake, an eBook of poetry for adults.  What spurred you to publish this book, and what did you learn from the process?

Goose LakeGoose Lake was something I needed to write. I spend time every day I’m home gazing through the windows or sitting outside watching the comings and goings of an endless parade of birds and creatures. I showed the manuscript to a couple of editors and got some of the most enthusiastic replies about my work that I’ve ever received. But their answers were no. Too local. Too mature. Too eclectic.

I decided to try this e-book thing to see what it was all about. Thus, a collection that appeals to me greatly now lives its lonely life on Amazon and B&N. For a mere 99 cents you can be a proud owner! Is there anything about “lonely” that you need me to explain?

Ha, no…as a poet, we’re all supposed to be lonely and sullen, with dark, tortured souls, right??  Hey, before we wrap up, I need to ask you: what are you working on now?

I just finished the poetry for a new series of three grade level books. What remains are the final revisions to call it a wrap. I’m well into a new collection of poetry for a trade publisher. A recently completed collection of poems is now scheduled for publication although it won’t be until 2016. With Mary Jo Fresch I’m at work on a new proposal for another educational publisher. I have other ideas in various stages and expect this to be a busy year.

Boy w-Drum (David L)Well, thank you again, David, for sharing your time and thoughts…and best wishes for a wonderful 2014!

And thank you again, Matt. I’ve enjoyed it.

To learn more about David, log on to his website here or visit his blog!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

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